In order to slowly ease into my solo voyage, I took baby steps in parting from my large and loving Birthright family.
After we said tearful goodbyes to the bulk of the group heading back to the States, the 10 of us remaining rented a killer penthouse apartment blocks from the beach in Tel Aviv on vibrant Ben Yehuda Street.
After a wild night out on the town with the group, three of us girls moved into a cozy Airbnb rental half a block from the crazy and crowded HaCarmel street market.
It was a much-needed chance to rest, get some girl time and play with Alice, the cat. Feline lovin’ is so therapeutic!
When it came time to say goodbye to the girls (Becca was heading home, Teel to work on a Kibbutz), I braved public transportation with my pack and headed to the Florentine Hostel.
The warm greetings and chill vibe immediately made me feel at home, especially because I met a fellow Bay Area kid as I was walking in! To top it off, I ended up rooming with a girl I had already met the week before while partying in Tel Aviv. The world is a remarkably small place!
The hostel itself was incredible: a huge rooftop lounge with couches and hammocks was a great place to hang with fellow travelers, and my air conditioned room was a nice escape as the temperature creeped up into the 100s.
The people I met there were also such an interesting and eclectic mix of travelers from all over the world. I have new friends from Germany, Belgium, Italy, London and Australia.
My most unique new friend is Nora, a 70-year-old native New Yorker who recently moved to Israel. She took a special interest in me and my life, and we spent many hours discussing topics that most would find unsuitable for polite dinner conversation (think politics, religion and her sex life!).
I spent my days in Florentine at the beach that was a five minute walk away, perusing the Jaffa flea market, and wandering around the ancient port of Jaffa–one of the world’s oldest ports.
I spent most of my afternoons on the beach, taking in the sunsets that stretched over the Mediterranean Sea.
I felt so at home in Israel, and met people who felt like family after five minutes. I spent my last night swimming in the sea until 3 a.m., and came home sandy and satisfied. I left with a slightly heavy heart, but knowing that I’d be back in November to rekindle the relationships I had ignited.